RJ Barrett has spoken openly about being slighted last season when he was left off the NBA’s first and second All-Rookie teams. But when asked if he measures his progress against the two players selected ahead of him in the 2019 draft — Zion Williamson and Ja Morant — he took a pass.
"My game speaks for itself," Barrett said. "I mean, you can look at our numbers, you can look at our teams’ success. It doesn’t really matter. As long as I keep getting better as a player, I’ll be happy."
Morant, selected No. 2, one spot ahead of Barrett, was named Rookie of the Year last season, but his numbers aren’t that far off from Barrett’s this season. Morant entered Friday averaging 18.8 points and 7.4 assists but has struggled from long range, hitting only 25.5% of his three-point tries after connecting on 33.5% as a rookie.
Barrett entered the night averaging 17.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists, and after a slow start, he has connected on 38% of his three-point attempts.
One Knicks player looking forward to facing Morant for the first time was rookie Immanuel Quickley.
"I haven’t faced Ja Morant, but just on what we’ve seen, he’s a really good player," he said. "He gets downhill, creates for his teammates and he has that floater as well. Definitely gonna be a good matchup for us and a test for myself against an athletic, scoring point guard."
While Derrick Rose noted that it took time for his conditioning to return after his bout with COVID-19, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said he has not based his minutes on conditioning issues, including Wednesday in Boston, when he removed Rose and inserted Elfrid Payton with 2:40 remaining and the Knicks trailing by three.
"No, just the game," Thibodeau said. "Looking at matchups and what was going on in the game. We like the versatility of our team and the depth of our team. So we need everyone and we’ll continue to use everyone."